State College makes several changes to process of becoming a borough police officer

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CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – The State College Borough Council unanimously approved to make several changes to the testing requirements needed to become a police officer.

“I think the changes were long overdue. We’re living in different times and I think we have to be open minded and objective and pursue any strategies to be more inclusive and increase our applicant pool,” said Chief John Gardner of the State College Police Department.

According to the Borough’s Director of Human Resources Leann Shaw, amendments to their testing process haven’t been made since March of 2014.

“It’s high-time for change,” said Shaw.

Especially since Chief Gardner says they’re not recruiting as many applicants as they once were.

“Back in the stone ages of 1990 when I took the test to come here to State College we had 800 or 900 applicants, and in that particular time we hired 5 police officers out of the gate,” said Gardner.

Now he says they’re only receiving roughly 150 to 180 applicants.

And according to the Assistant to the Manager, Douglas Shontz, that’s with extensive recruiting. To broaden the pool, Shaw says they decided to lower the minimum age to test, from 21 to 20.

“However you have to be 21 at the time of appointment,” said Shaw.

The second adjustment came to the physical agility test.

“So if you did not pass the physical agility test at the 30’th percentile, you did not move on, you’re failed at that point,” said Shaw.

And being the first step into the testing process, Shaw says the department was losing a number of candidates from the get-go. Which is why they decided to move the requirement to the end of the process instead.

“We didn’t want to be eliminating people right out of the gate because they had a bad day testing on a physical strength and agility test where they may have missed one or two pushups or what have you,” said Gardner.

Along with physical test changes came adjustments to the written test which previously included 4 different test modules: math, reading, grammar and writing.

“We are increasing the overall passing score from 70% to 75% with no score lower than 50% on any test module,” said Shaw.

Before, candidates couldn’t score lower than a 70% in each module.

“We’ve seen over the years we have people that would get 3 scores in the 90’s but then someone gets a 65 in the math module and they’re totally eliminated from the process,” said Gardner.

When sitting down to take their written test, Shaw says candidates will also now see an additional module.

“We’ve added a PSNS, which is an integrity test,” said Shaw.

According to Shaw the addition will provide more insight into their candidates, which Councilwoman Theresa Lafer says is a good step in the right direction when building a force.

“I particularly approve of this section of the test because I feel like it’s something we need to talk about from the time we want to hire somebody, through their hiring, and hopefully through a lifetime of service,” said Shaw.

According to Chief Gardner, the changes aren’t an end-all be-all, but he says he sees them as positive ones for the police department.

“I don’t consider this a job, I consider this a profession. And what we want, are people to come here and assume that same type of mindset. It may sound trite and contrary but the goal here is to protect and serve our community,” said Gardner.

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